Your Athfest: Tunabunny

tunabunny’s athfest diary

hey jordan. not sure if this is what you had in mind when you asked us to write about our athfest experience. went into a lot of detail about preparing for the show because i don’t think a lot of people know what goes into that kind of stuff, and it might be interesting.

Our weekend started thursday with the banner-herald writing “The experimental sounds of Athens’ own Tunabunny aren’t for everybody,” in their Athfest preview. I’ve heard of back-handed compliments, but I think the ABH may have invented the first ‘front-handed insult’.

-Or “bitch-slap” compliment, as Mary Jane coined

That night we checked out the Flagpole music awards for a while before we headed over to check out the E6 movie night at Cine. I always like the FMA’s. Just when they threaten to descend into the same annoying self-indulgence you see in most award shows, someone or something pulls the show back from the brink and reminds you of what makes Athens such a unique & wonderful place to live. For example, when the nominees for best video were being projected and the dvd started skipping all over the place during Dead Confederate, Kenosha Kid—the house band in the pit—spontaneously took over Dead Confederate’s song. The Morton Theatre erupted in laughter & applause.

Creepy were so amazing that we couldn’t leave until they finished, but thankfully the E6 thing started a little late. We ran into Joey, one of the Major Organ directors, as we came in, and when I asked him how much we had missed, he looked at his watch and said, “oh yeah, I guess we should start”. The entire program was wonderful, and the Major Organ movie turned out fantastic.

maybe it should just start here…

Friday was the day we played Athfest. Scheduled to go on 10:00 at Cine as part of the HappyHappyBirthdayToMe showcase (we have a split 12-inch coming out with them in August). Mike, the head of HHBTM, calls me around 5:00 or so to tell us the load-in’s at 8:00 and could we please make sure to hang around to help Casper & the Cookies unload something called ‘bafflers’—we will learn the next day, while watching the wrecking crew documentary, that they are in fact called ‘baffles’—that they’re bringing along to help make the room sound better.

Mary Jane comes by our house around 6:00 to load-up half the stuff in her car. We put the rest in Brigette’s car and then rush off to meet our friend Paul for dinner. La Fiesta doesn’t set well in Brigette’s stomach and by the time we pull up outside Cine she’s feeling pretty queasy.

-Paul encouraged me to get the sizzling shrimp fajitas after a brief internal debate with myself about decadence. Should come with a warning: do not mix with pre-show adrenaline.

We had already decided that we’d just pay the 5 bucks to park in the lot behind Cine if it was available, but for the moment we just park in the driveway and start carrying in our stuff. Some kind of wine reception was just finishing, so we have to make our way through a lobby packed full of people giving us dirty looks for saying things like, “Excuse me” while we have our arms full of drums, amps, etc. After we get all the stuff in, I go looking for a parking lot attendant while Mary Jane pulls into the lot. As soon as she starts driving, someone appears across the street waving frantically.

“Hey,” he shouts, “she can’t park there.”

I’m already on my way across the street to pay him. “Is it full?” I ask.


“Is the lot full?”

“No, but she can’t park there.”

“Why can’t she park there?”

“Because that’s a pay lot.”

“But. . . I know.” I squint into the sun going down behind the Snow tire building. “That’s fine. It’s okay. I mean, we don’t mind paying. . .”

His eyes dart back & forth between me and Brigette’s car. He seems unsure.

“What is it to park?” I ask. “Five dollars?”

“Yeah. Five dollars.”

“Here’s ten. For her car, and for that Ford Focus right there,” I say, pointing to Brigette’s car. “Can we just pull in anywhere?”

“Yeah,” he says, still acting confused. I wonder if parking in these lots was always this complicated. I think about asking him if we need a ticket or anything, but figure he probably would have given me one. Maybe he just remembers which cars are parked in the lot. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t following our conversation—he was busy memorizing what kind of car I was driving.

I pull into a parking space. Every single car has an orange ticket on their dashboard. Great. By this time, my shirt is completely soaked through and I can actually feel my eyebrows starting to get heavy with sweat. I’m getting ready to head back across the streeet when I hear a girl’s voice yelling, “Sir! Sir!”

I turned to see a girl, probably in her early 20’s driving a Mercedes. “I work here, and—well actually my father works here—is it okay for us to park in here?”

“I don’t know. I don’t work here.”

She makes a face at me that says, some fucking good you are, and drives off. Human beings are an interesting species.

Run back across the street. Get two orange tickets. Run back across the street to get one of them to Mary Jane before she heads inside. See a van parked in Cine’s driveway with a trailer attached to it. That would be Casper & the Cookies. Brigette is standing next to them waving me over, but I point towards the parking lot and keep going. She gets a confused look on her face.

-I wasn’t confused about you, I was just telling a story that required facial expressions.

Finally, Mary Jane and I, cars secured, make it back to Cine and introduce ourselves to Casper & the Cookies—Jason, Kay, and…I forgot the other guy’s name. Sorry, other guy (I’m sure he doesn’t remember my name either).

-His name is Jim, actually. And he carries a caboodle full of treasures and make-up.

We learn a little bit about ‘bafflers,’ although Jason isn’t sure that’s what they’re actually called. We talk about bad experiences we’ve both had with the sound at Cine in the past. Finally, around 8:30 everything’s inside and we’re relaxing on a couple of Cine’s couches when Brigette remembers something.

“I forgot to bring drumsticks.”

“Oh, shit.”

-I think it was me that said “oh, shit” actually. But visions of previous shows where Chloe scavenged for the perfect size branches to use as legs for the kick drum cheered me up.

“Should I call Chloe and see if she can get some from Jesse?”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”

-Thank you, I thought it was a good idea also.

Ten minutes later we learn that Jesse doesn’t have any drumsticks. Oh well. We’ll just ask to borrow someone else’s. Chloe suggests that there are a lot of trees along Hancock Street and some of may them have sturdy branches.

Ten minutes later we learn that Casper & the Cookies, a band we share a label with, a band we just saw perform the night before at the FMA’s without a drummer, no longer perform with live drums.

Another band on the bill, Forever, shows up. They are from Portland, and they will end up sleeping at our house later on that night. I tell Brigette that it’s her turn to ask to borrow drumsticks, having embarassed myself enough when I asked Casper.

I walk around a little to check out the Black Lips. When I come back, I ask Brigette if she talked with Forever. She said they left to go watch the Black Lips, but she’d ask them when they got back.

-I am a considerate lady. My first interest in meeting a band who has traveled all the way from Portland on a six week tour is not, “oh hello, can you give me something please? Because I’m irresponsible and forgot?” No, I say “hello, how was your 12 hour drive? Oh you slept on a kitchen floor last night? Why don’t you relax and go catch the Black Lips.” Class, Scott. Class.

Doing the math in my head—our set starts at ten, Black Lips’ set ends at ten—I immediately call Chloe, who is walking around somewhere with Mary Jane.

“We need drumsticks really bad. Nobody here has any.”

Chloe says she’s on it.

Ten minutes later, Chloe walks in with a pair of drumsticks. Although she won’t tell us where she got them, we eventually learn that Teddy from Marriage got them for us. Thanks, Teddy!

-Ted Kuhn is an amazing human being.

Show goes great. Even the things that go wrong are somehow going right. Towards the end of “Outer Space Is the Center of the Earth” Brigette goes into this improvised monologue about self-improvement that nobody can hear except for Chloe. They both get so excited by brigette’s rant that they decide to leave the performance, locking themselves in a bathroom stall laughing and hugging each other long enough to confuse a woman washing her hands in between the low points of the Allman Brother’s documentary. Now it’s just me & mary jane and the sound of Brigette’s voice distorted by a delay pedal and stuck on an endless loop. I just kind of sit there on the floor while mary jane dances around what’s left of the performance. Eventually, I reach up to the keyboard and drone a couple of notes, bending them in & out of tune with my thumb. This sounds really nice together, brigette’s voice & the keyboards. Mary jane brings me some of her beer. I think I’ll sit here for a while. Mary jane sits down next to me and we finish the beer together.

I guess chloe & brigette aren’t coming back, so I eventually get up to go turn off brigette’s amp (along with her looping voice). When I get there, it occurs to me that it’ll be more appropriate to the spirit of the show if I use Mary jane’s guitar to turn off the amp. My first attempt only cranks the volume, which raises brigette’s voice to ear-shattering levels. My second shot misses. But the third one gets the amp to turn off. Silence. I toss Mary jane’s guitar onto the floor and sit back down. That was fun. People clap. People yell. I get up and say thank you. Mary Jane & I start to clean up. Chloe & brigette come back. We’re all smiling & laughing at how much fun we had.

It’s a great feeling when a show goes perfect and everything sounds the way it’s supposed to, but I’d say it’s an even better feeling when you just do whatever you feel like and try to create something special and slightly crazy—and it works. Then it feels like you got away with something. I think the first adrenaline rush, the thrill of doing something right, is like the joy you get with a good report card. Our excitement is more like vandalism. Or shoplifting. Like walking out of a shopping mall with a new jacket you couldn’t be bothered to pay for.

We get all our stuff out of the way for the next band. Too exhausted to go anywhere. The idea of rushing over to catch Dexter Romweber sounds great, but it’s just not happening. There’s a lot of people who want to say hi, friends & strangers who want to say nice things about the show. And the idea of resting on that couch and talking to people sounds more appealing than Dexter. Later, I will regret not going, but it made sense in my brain at the time. Plus, every single person not affiliated with HappyHappyBirthday has left Cine by the time Forever starts playing. In the span of 15 minutes, the number of people in the room has shrunk from about 75 people to five. Ouch. I convince myself that I owe it to Forever, if not to the entire HappyHappyBirthday family to do nothing more than sit in Cine drinking cold—actually, slightly cooler than room temperature would be more accurate—beer and spending the rest of the night right here.

Which is pretty much what I did. Towards the end of Casper’s set, we snuck our stuff out a side door, said goodbye to everyone and went our separate ways. We made $100 for the show, a new Tunabunny record (normally we make closer to $20, which we usually spend on Jesse—who does all recordings for free). Brigette & I stopped at Waffle House to get something to eat, and then headed home to clean up a little before Forever showed up. They left in the morning, and Brigette and I got up a little before noon and decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at Ike & Jane’s, since it was a special weekend and all.

– Tunabunny

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